An extraordinary trial begins Wednesday, January 13 in Calabria, with hundreds of suspected members of the ‘Ndrangheta, the most powerful Italian mafia, on the dock. Among them, the chef, Luigi Mancuso, who has already spent nearly twenty years in prison.
More than 350 people, ‘Ndranghetists but also local elected officials, civil servants, police officers or even entrepreneurs, will march at the bar – most often by videoconference, due to the epidemic due to the coronavirus – in front of the specially equipped court in Lamezia Terme, in heart of the poorest part of the country. 900 witnesses and 400 lawyers are also expected during this trial-river, the largest in three decades against a criminal organization that controls the flow of cocaine throughout Europe.
This “Maxi-trial” East “A milestone in the construction of a wall against the mafias in Italy”, welcomed the prosecutor Nicola Gratteri to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
By its proportions, this trial is only exceeded by that of 1986-1987 in Palermo against the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, at the end of which 338 defendants were convicted. Judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were then assassinated by the Mafia.
“They will simply reproduce”
A rare occurrence for the ‘Ndrangheta, which severely punishes its “Repentant”, 58 prosecution witnesses agreed to break the omerta to reveal the secrets of the Mancuso clan and its associates.
Most of the defendants were arrested in police raids in December 2019 in Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Bulgaria. The range of crimes and offenses for which they are accused is wide: mafia association, murder and attempted murder, drug trafficking, usury, abuse of power, concealment and money laundering.
In Calabria, the Mafia has infiltrated almost all spheres of public life, town halls, hospitals, cemeteries and even courts, according to experts. Authorities estimate the number of ‘Ndrangheta families at 150 and at least 6,000 members and associates in Calabria. Thousands more elsewhere in the world, in South America and New York in particular, for an annual turnover of 50 billion euros, according to prosecutor Gratteri.
These maxi-trials are justified, according to the prosecution, by the close interweaving of many cases, even if defense lawyers believe that, under these conditions, it is difficult to ensure each accused a fair and equitable trial.
The stakes are high: “If the trial does not lead to many convictions, it will be considered a failure”, said Nicola Lo Torto, one of the defense lawyers, in an interview with AFP. And even if successful, the ‘Ndrangheta will not disappear: “We can throw mafioso in prison, but if we do not remove the roots at the origin of their existence, they will simply reproduce”, warns Federico Varese, professor of criminology at the University of Oxford.